Thursday, February 07, 2008

I didn't burn the house down.

Nor did I have to lob a molten, flaming pot out onto the lawn. I am sure the neighbours are both thrilled AND a little disappointed. What else will they talk about if I don't start acting up again? Maybe I'll go out later in my pajamas and pick at the frozen mailbox with a gigantic metal object. That might do it. I tried the "no knead" bread recipe, as altered by the staff of Cooks Illustrated. They endeavored to make it that much better by adding a bit of beer and vinegar for flavour (and no, you cannot taste either of them but the bread definitely had a good taste) and doing a tiny bit of kneading (nothing strenuous, and I did it right in the bowl where it had rested rather than on a floured surface. I like to live dangerously). We really liked this bread! The crust was VERY crispy and sort of chewy at the same time. The crumb was moist and full of holes and quite rustic (as opposed to a flossy bakery loaf). The bottom crust was really hard, probably because my dutch oven wasn't heavy enough to protect it from the heat as well but it was not off-putting at all. Just made it a bit harder to go through when slicing. Since making it, DH and DD have worked very hard to eat it all up. I got one piece at dinner the first night, and got toast the next day. Apart from that, the two that "aren't really into bread" devoured the rest. Oh, I did finish the last crust end this morning by dicing it into small cubes and baking with eggs and cheese and spinach to make a delectable frittata. There is something about the combo of eggs and cheese and spinach leaves, even better if there is the occasional crispness to go with the soft custardy goodness of the rest. I think my next one will be even better. My kitchen was a bit cold so I didn't get the rise I wanted at first, although it did liven up and rise some more after I figured it out and put it on top of the fridge. Next time I will start it up there and for sure it will improve. I decided not to risk burning plastic, and found the top knob and side handles more than easy to remove from my dutch oven, with no plastic parts left behind. I could put them back on as easily, but I probably won't bother. I didn't like the pot for making stews and such, and it is part of an older set we no longer have. I probably just forgot this piece when giving away the old stuff since it was stored separately. I have no problem keeping it as a bread baker though! Alton Brown would be aghast that I propose to keep a single-tasker, but unless he is coming to woo me with la Crueset in green then he gets no say in the matter. I will try the plain recipe again, then try the whole wheat. If I decide to start baking it regularly, I would rather it be the whole wheat version because it is better for me. I usually buy artisan loaves for just me because I hate sandwich bread - even whole wheat now. What have they done to my whole wheat bread?!?! It's just as sweet and squidgy as wonder bread. Damn the masses! Why can't they have more refined tastes so my products can be left alone. Even as toast any more it is just mushy and tastes off to me. The no-knead bread made excellent toast, if you like chewy crispy toast. I absolutely love chewy crispy toast. So this week I have tried TWO new recipes. The bread, and a skillet beef and macaroni recipe. It sounded good to me because it included onions and peppers in the sauce. It's the kind where the macaroni cooks in the sauce - kind of like a hamburger helper type deal. I decided to be sneaky and try something, now that I have a good blender. I cooked the veggies and added some of the liquid from the recipe and pureed it. That blender made such a smooth mixture not a single pepper peel remained in the final product. This was mixed with the sauce. DH and DD loved it so much that they each ate a lions share, then DD took it two days in a row for lunch. Now THAT is a record. Of course, they have no idea there are vegetables in it. The next thing I will try is some cooked and pureed carrots in meatballs. I will sneak the peppers and onions into the sauce too. DD said her lenten promise is to try and eat more vegetables. Hey, I am just trying to help her out ;).